Traveling with an ambition to explore a land which is hidden and lost, I found Myanmar (Burma) overwhelmingly fascinating and unique. In a short trip to Myanmar, I explored Bagan – The land of pagodas, Inle Lake – The land of leg paddling fishermen and Yangon – A historically cosmopolitan town. Myanmar is often considered the hidden gem of South-East Asia which is far less known and yet to be traveled than its famous neighbors. Strategically located between two giants India and China, bordering Bangladesh, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar has had a turbulent past of invasion and internal struggle which dates back to 11th century and ironically still continue in some form or other. Yet it survived with its distinct culture preserving its history and heritage. Myanmar is now ready to take the small leaps of faith greeting & embracing the new world with open arms.
Myanmar garnered my attention when Indian government opened its border for road travel to Thailand via Myanmar. Being a road trip junkie, I planned an epic trip from Delhi to Vietnam via Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. During this planning, Myanmar took me by surprise and then when Air Asia announced its cheap flights for Myanmar, I just grabbed it.
Travel Tips : As i started my planning, i checked all the resources available online to finalize on things to carry, currency and Health insurance. For Myanmar i would recommend everyone to carry US dollars as it is accepted every where. Do check with your travel insurance provider if they cover Myanmar. I must admit, Visa Process was smooth for me. Lately a lot of expats have made there way into this new land of economic opportunities and after meeting many expats out there, I would recommend them to opt for an extensive and comprehensive Expat Medical Plan. Being an underdeveloped country, basic hygiene could be an issue for some, so please make sure that you take all basic medication from your country after discussing with your physician. Once you have taken care of these basic things.
Time to Travel Myanmar is NOW
I love history, heritage and authentic-native culture which is less influenced by western or commercial ways. After independence from British rule, due to political crisis, Myanmar went in to a self-isolation mode and that ensured that time hasn’t ticked much in this part of the world. Still, you find people in traditional Loongy wear (Sarong) which used to be a dominant dressing style of Indian Subcontinent due to hot and tropical weather. Still, you find people’s face layered with soothing Thanaka. Still, motorized motor boats could not outpace leg paddling boats of Intha Tribes in Inle lake. Still, you are allowed to climb sacred Pagodas to click Sunrise and sunset shots. Soon, however, all this will change. Winds are blowing and transformation is in the air. Precisely, for this reason I went there NOW so as to capture this last lost world.
In my fast paced journey across Myanmar which also happened to be my first solo trip abroad, I did Pagoda hopping in Bagan, stayed in iconic Ostello Bello Hostel with co-travelers, captured amazing shots of sunrise and sunset, met with famous Intha fishermen, witnessed riot of colors during Annual Festival on Inle lake, met with generous Burmese people, discussed Bollywood movies with locals and roamed around the lanes of downtown Yangon unearthing treasure chest loaded with stories of history and humanity.
Let me give you a quick view of my whirl winding trip to Majestic Myanmar which will be followed by many intriguing stories from the lost land of Myanmar.
Solo Trip to Myanmar – Pagoda hopping in Bagan:
At 140 KM from Mandalay on the Banks of river Irrawaddy, ancient city of Bagan is Myanmar’s heartland and its biggest attraction. It gives immense opportunity to explore ancient ruins and get enthralled by expansive view of pagoda laden horizon. After having seen, numerous amazing pictures of Bagan’s landscape with scattered pagodas, I was really tempted to finally get to see it in person and what I saw left me speechless. From Yangon, the best way to reach Bagan is to take a Bus and there are ample options available on Bookaway and my personal suggestion is to board JJ Express’ buses.
Marco Polo visited this city at its prime and found it to be a vibrant, magnificent and cosmopolitan city bustling with trade and the rich arts and craft that befitted a growing empire. He gave the first description of the city to western world:
“The city of Mien (Myanmar) was a noble city and in it were ‘towers of stone’ covered with gold and silver and bells at the top inasmuch that whenever the wind blows among these bells they tinkle.”
For many centuries, Bagan was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom, which would later become Burma and then modern-day Myanmar. During its prime, Bagan had over 8000 Pagodas, Buddhist and Hindus both, and big monasteries. After an unfortunate earthquake, today, there are about 2,000 temples and pagodas left. During my pagoda hopping on E-bike through this open air museum, I could visit few.
Solo Trip to Myanmar – Boat Ride In Inle Lake
Inle Lake with a surface area of 100 square KM is the second largest lake of Myanmar. At 890 meters from sea level, it is wedged in between hills and surrounded by rural farming landscape. The best way to explore this natural place is by hiring a long-tailed boat and just get lost. I enjoyed the boat ride for good three hours and every minute was filled with thrilled.
Solo Trip to Myanmar – Leg rowers of Inle Lake
The lake is famous for native Intha tribes which has mastered the art of rowing with one leg which is so distinctive and unique. The art is to stand on one leg, use other for rowing, one hand for nets and other for fishing tools – a delicate balancing act.
Solo Trip to Myanmar – Annual Pagoda Festival of Inle Lake
During my boat ride, I also witnessed sunrise festivals which was a magnanimous display of skill and art of Intha People. Hundreds of skilled people on beautifully decorated boats pulled the gilded barge across Inle Lake as a part of their annual 2 week festival – Paung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival.
Solo Trip to Myanmar – Living the charm of Yangon
My first memory of Yangon is associated with its earlier name Rangoon. There used to be an old classic Hindi Bollywood song – Mere Piya gaye Rangoon wahan se kiya hai telephone (Being sung by wife whose beloved husband has gone to Rangoon for business purpose and has called her from there conveying how much he misses her), which validates ancient and medieval connection between India and Burma. This song also recognizes the enterprising nature of Indians, for Yangon (Rangoon) was once heavily populated by Indians and trade was mastered by Indian merchants.
Yangon was a thriving city rivaling Karachi, Kolkata and Mumbai during erstwhile British Raj. It was one of the true cosmopolitan city of the east in 19th and early 20th centuries and also one of the important trade points. Still, downtown has many structures which represent various faith and culture validating its glorious past. It has Hindu temple, Islamic mosques, Jewish synagogue, Buddhist temples, Jain temple and British era heritage building spread within a walking distance from Sule Pagoda which is the central point of Downtown.
Being a Delhiites and a lover of Delhi’s historical heritage, anything related to Mughals excites me. So, while planning my trip to Yangon, I was more interested to visit Dargah of Abu Zafar Mohammad Bahadur Shah II, popularly known as Zafer from his nom de plume, the last emperor of India, who was sent to exile by Britishers after failed first struggle of Independence in 1857. I wanted to see the very last building which belongs to Mughals who were once the richest and strongest in the world.
I planned a two-day stay at Yangon, however, due to continuous rain and ever-present traffic I was badly stuck in my hotel room and whenever I could, I ventured out to take a glimpse of this city which has a certain charm of our slow pacing Kolkata and vibrant Mumbai. I took a quick city tour on uniquely styled rickshaw and covered Merchant Road along river Yangon, Anawrahta Road which was earlier known as Moghul Road, Little India, Gandhi Hall, Jain Temple, few Hindu Temple, one Shia Mosque and also discovered a shop selling Golgappas – The undisputed the best Indian Street Food.
Imagine a country which was once a great kingdom and then lost in the whirls of time, survived a self-exile from its neighbors for better half of 20th century, acquired the stature of a unique dream land christened as Golden Earth by Norman Lewis. Yes that’s Myanmar the erstwhile Burma, which has recently been opened freely for travelers. This, yet to be spoilt piece of land, is for the adventurous traveler who wants to explore new vistas and seeks for authentic traveling experiences. My five days were full of excitement as I could see still snailing old world. I urge everyone to Go Myanmar as soon it will be transformed into any other South East Asian Country.
Will I go back?? Certainly, I will. That road trip from Delhi to Vietnam will happen someday for sure.
Here, I conclude my trip to Myanmar. This blog post will be followed by many more interesting detailed account of solo trip to Myanmar.
Myanmar is safe to travel
At this point, I must address safety issue amidst Rohingya problem. Myanmar is safe place to travel. I did all my inter-city travel in night buses and found no issue at all. The Rohingya issue is limited to one and small part of country bordering Bangladesh. I was advised to avoid political discussion when in Myanmar and follow traveling guideline of your countries foreign affair department. All important places like Inle Lake, Bagan, Mandalay, Yangon, Kalaw etc are extremely safe. People are friendly and peace-loving. For Indian friends, let me add, they have special affinity toward India and Indian people as Budhha was from India. So, go Myanmar and explore the country.
If you feel motivated, please share this blog post with your loved ones so that they can break the mundane cycle of everyday life and explore the world.
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42 thoughts on “Majestic Myanmar in 5 days – A Solo Trip to The Golden Earth”
Myanmar looks like a fantastic country to explore and the scenery looks amazing. I think I would need more than five days out there as there seems to be a lot to do 😀
Absolutely amazing that you did a solo trip across this amazing country. My sister had been here and was floored by the people and culture there! Would love to check this paradise myself sometime!
Your post took me down the memory lane. Same time this year I was in Myanmr and I agree with you, the right time to visit Myanmar is NOW. It won’t be the same once it is exposed to the west. I loved your captures of the rowers! I couldn’t get them because of the rains! 😐 So wonderful to see that you witnessed the Annual Pagoda Festival of Inle Lake! 🙂
Wow I love that you took such an adventurous solo trip for your first. I’ve been hearing so much about Myanmar. I’d really like to go before more start visiting. Those leg rowers are amazing!
Indeed you must plan now.
This sounds like it was an incredible trip. Hot air ballooning over Pagoda is a dream of mine but I was not aware of the leg rowers — I need to see that!
Wow that was a great trip for you. Great pictures of the locals there. Thanka paste interests me 🙂 I hope I can visit some day.
I have wanted to visit Myanmar since I was a child. I wrote a report on it (it was called Burma at the time) and so ever since then I’ve wanted to see it for myself. For your first solo trip, you truly picked a spectacular place. It’ll be interesting to see how it changes as more people discover the country. Like you said, it’s great that you were able to go now, while much of it is still preserved.
This sounds like a wonderful road trip! I had a trip planned to Myanmar in January and I’m currently on the fence about it. I’m happy to hear reports, like yours that Myanmar is safe. I’m trying to decide how I can do it as ethically as possible. I love that even in the big city of Yangon, there are so many temples. The Jain temple looks amazing.
Myanmar is in our list since long but we had been avoiding it till day due to security reasons. And now since the day govt opened this road trip; it surely is gaining lots of popularity. So many pagodas I will love it. Your pictures of Inle lake are breathtaking. Loved your post and it has given me the confidence to plan a trip to this hidden untouched land.
Wow, what a fascinating experience. Lucky for having now before it comes commercialized. It’s amazing to see your pictures and see the ancient city. The Pagodas are amazing. So interesting to read about the one-legged fishermen. Is there a particular fish that requires this particular technique? Thanks for adding the note about safety and the Rohinga. Looking forward to reading more about your experience.
Great that you enjoyed your stay in Myanmar.. Though, I am concerned because there is an issue about political instability in this country? I am sure you knew but great photos and its very brave of you to see this beautiful island.
Hii Kristie, Myanmar is absolutely safe. Thanks for your appreciation.
Let me tell you, that political issue is limited to a small part of the country. So go there without any concern.
I would love to go pagoda hopping in Myanmar! The hot air balloon rides also look incredible- I did hear they’re incredibly pricey though.
What a great post – and all these beautiful pictures! I’m going to Cambodia next month, but Myanmar is definitely on my bucket list – you pix encouraged me even more, thank you!
I can’t believe you only did 5 days there, but you covered so much ground, I’m actually looking to head to Myanmar as a possible next destination, in terms of budget how much did you spend in the 5 days? I would be looking to spend a month out there, more if possible.
It’s nice to know that despite the conflict in one small part in Myanmar doesn’t affect the whole country. You had indeed such a wonderful time visiting and staying 5 days in this amazing country. I like the title itself ” The Golden Earth “. It’s also one of my bucket lists to go to Myanmar, we’re supposed to go there also year, unfortunately, something came up! Hopefully this end of the year!
Do not postpone any further. Just go there and enjoy the place.
You certainly enjoyed an amazing trip in Myanmar! What a country of history and religious devotion, your photos really captured a lot of its beauty. I would love to see Bagan and the pagodas, as well as eat the tasty food I’ve heard about.
Great post about the main sights in Myanmar! I was in Myanmar twice, in 2011 and 2014 and I can tell you it is changing very fast so if, like you say, you want to visit it again don’t wait too long. So you also had lots of rain in Yangon? It seems to be raining all the year round in that city, I went in August and November and both times had lots of rain . . . 🙁
I spent a week in Myanmar and absolutely loved it – it’s such a lovely destination and there’s so much incredible history.
Myanmar is such a great and pleasant country to visit and even as you did, as a solo traveller. I loved to read about your experience witnessing the annual pagoda festival of Inle lake. How special must that have been. I visited Myanmar many years ago and I’d love to go back there, especially after seeing your beautiful photos and reading about your experiences in Myanmar.
I been reading a lot about Myanmar recently and seems to be the upcoming place to visit in Asia. I would love to check out Bagan, the temples look amazing. Love reading your blog post and has given me some food for thought.
I have always wanted to visit Myanmar and after seeing your pictures, I really want to sooner than later. The pagodas look amazing and it seems like quite the expereince to get to climb to the top of some of them. Only 2000 out of 8000 pagodas left! I guess I better hurry up and seem them soon. The one legged rowing is awesome! What a feat of balance. Your five days were full of adventure and make me want to visit as quick as possible.
Your photos are just stunning! I love how you were able to capture some gorgeous moments of Myanmar.. I’d love to go on a Pagoda Hopping too. It has been a dream of mine to go on a hot air balloon ride over those gorgeous pagoda in Bagan.. And the leg rowers of Inle Lake sounds like an amazing thing to witness too. Such a great skill to master indeed!
Myanmar has such a fascinating culture! I’ve read quite a bit about this area but I still had no idea that the paste they applied is cosmetic!
Myanmar has such a fascinating culture! I’ve read quite a bit about this area but I still had no idea that the paste they applied is cosmetic!
It sounds like you had an amazing time, and your photos are gorgeous. I’ve always wanted to visit Myanmar. Reading your perspective now about visiting before it becomes too commercial makes me want to plan a trip right away!
Myanmar is definitely on my travel wish list. I would love to see the pagoda laden horizon. It looks absolutely stunning. It must have been fun to tour them by eBike. I loved the pics of the leg rowers of Inle Lake. You caught him at the perfect time. I was glad you addressed safety at the end. The media would suggest that the whole country is unstable. Glad to hear that is not the case.
This is an epic trip to one of the most fascinating and underrated of places. You have unveiled some wonderful facets of the sights and experiences this small country has to offer. We would love to get and considering its nearness to India, we should hopefully do it soon. One of the top things that we would love to do is Pagoda hopping in Bagan. Your pictures bring alive the ethereal beauty of this region in a candid way.
Thanks for dropping by, Indeed Myanmar was a great experience. You gonna enjoy your Pagora hopping experience.
Thanks for the tips on carrying USD and basic medication. I agree that the time to visit Myanmar is now, and I would love to visit before the country becomes ovrrun with tourism and loses its authenticity. I’m really fascinated by people watching and portrait photography of different cultures when I travel, so I would love to get shots of the local people with Thanaka . Thanks for sharing your itinerary – I hadn’t thought of exploring temples in Bagan by e-bike, but sounds like a cool way to get around! I’m glad to hear that it is safe, though the humanitarian in me would probably want to look into if I could volunteer my time to help in the Rohingya refugee areas while in the region. I hope to travel soon 🙂
Thanks Meg for your comment. Trust, go Myanmar NOW.
Lovely pictures! How beautifully you have captured the connection with Shamshad Begum’s classic song! You are a true artist! How did you manage to capture so much in just 5 days? I plan to visit Myanmar this season ( By air—I don’t feel adventurous enough to go by road, nor do I have the time) and spend a whole week . Any advice on places to cover? I certainly will attempt to see all the Indian connection sites already appearing in your blog. Did you also go to Vietnam? That is in my wish-list too, so I am curious…. Kaushik
Hii Kaushik, Thanks for the kind words.
I had very less time so had to plan everything within a tight schedule.
For your 1 week schedule – I WOudl suggest 2 days at Bagan, 1 day at Mandalay, 2 days at Inle lake and 2 days at Yangon.
You would be amazed to find indian connection in the street of Yangon.
I am yet to visit Vietnam. It is in my wish list as well 🙂
Enjoyed the post and the photos. I like that you had both beautiful scenic shots and pictures of everyday street life. Heading there myself next month for a week or so. Very excited. I keep reading that bikes are the way to go for temple exploration, but I’m nervous about that as i have never driven a car or operated any motorized vehicle. May have to give it a try if they are foolish enough to rent me a bike.